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Other research product . 2022

A Preliminary Comparison of Ichthyoplankton Surveys vs. Environmental DNA Metabarcoding to Survey a Nearshore Marine Fish Community

Labare, Michaela Faith;
Open Access
Published: 01 Jan 2022
Publisher: eScholarship, University of California
Country: United States

Understanding fish diversity patterns is critical for fisheries management amidst overfishing and climate change. Fish egg surveys have been used to characterize pelagic spawning fish communities, estimate biomass, and track population trends in response to perturbations. Environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding has been implemented to rapidly and non-invasively survey marine ecosystems. To understand the efficacy of eDNA metabarcoding for assessing pelagic spawning fish community composition, concurrent eDNA metabarcoding and fish egg DNA barcoding off Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Pier (La Jolla, CA) were conducted. Both methods revealed seasonal patterns in agreement with previous fish and fish egg surveys. Species richness was highest in late spring and summer. The presence and spawning of commercially important species and species of conservation concern were detected. Both methods showed overlap for pelagic spawning fishes for broadcast spawners, schooling fish, and locally abundant species. Some actively spawning species were not co-detected with eDNA, likely due to different sampling strategies, taxonomic biases, and abiotic/biotic factors influencing eDNA transport, shedding, and degradation. We identified key advantages and disadvantages of each method. Fish egg barcoding provided information on spawning trends but did not detect taxa with alternate reproduction strategies. Metabarcoding eDNA detected species not found in fish egg sampling, including demersal and viviparous bony fishes, non-spawning adults, Chondrichthyan, and Mammalian species, but missed abundant pelagic fish eggs. This study demonstrates that DNA barcoding of fish eggs and eDNA metabarcoding work best in tandem as each method identified unique fish taxa and provided complementary ecological and biological insight.


Biological oceanography, Biology, Ecology, DNA barcoding, Environmental DNA, Fish eggs, Marine, Metabarcoding, Molecular ecology

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European Marine Science